Last night, a poorly researched piece by Steve Kroft appeared on the television news program, 60 Minutes. I say “poorly researched” because it took me all of
This piece by 60 minutes was such a load of crap. I was so outraged by everything they said. This bogus “research” and junk science is the reason why mental illness has such a stigma. The thing is, the media only wants to talk about mental health when it relates to violence or crime. A lot of times, reporters will attribute one’s violence to his or her disorder. Like if the shooter or whoever had been treated for schizophrenia or some other mental illness, then they wouldn’t be violent anymore and wouldn’t have committed the crime. Well, that’s bull. They’re not directly related and having a brain disorder doesn’t mean that you’re more prone to violence or crime.
It’s this kind of over-generalizing and exaggeration about people with mental illness that is so infuriating. It paints us as monsters, when the real culprit, the reason for one’s violence, can be attributed to a number of other factors like parental history of abuse or neglect, substance abuse, traumatic life events, or a combination of these. But the media often points the finger at mental illness, ignoring all other factors that may have contributed to someone’s violence, and tells people, “That’s it. The reason this person killed is because he had schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, etc. If he didn’t have it, this never would have happened.” It’s ignorant, unfair, and untrue. But so many news stations/channels perpetuate this view that mental illness is to blame for all the violence, and the general population is willing to believe it because it’s an easy assumption to make.
I’m not blaming people. Hell, members of my own family have fallen prey to this kind of thinking, even after I was diagnosed with my disorders. My own mother, who’s been my rock throughout this whole ordeal, has shocked me before by believing the media hype. When we were watching a program about the lady who shot her grandchildren, and it was let known that she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, my mom said, “Oh, no wonder,” like it explained everything. I kept my mouth shut when I heard her say that, but in my head, I was thinking, “Really, Mom? Even after all these years, after witnessing your daughter go through all these experiences with mental illness, you still feed into this crap?” But I guess I get it. You truly don’t understand what it’s like to live with a mood disorder unless you have one. And I love my mom, really, I do. But hearing these three words from her broke my heart. Because it means that the person who’s been right by my side dealing with this since day one still believes the media when it tells her that people with mental illnesses are dangerous.
It’s the reason I’m so guarded with my secret, why I’ve always been so ashamed to talk about it or even admit it to anyone. I know that no matter how open-minded, kind, or educated someone is, the minute I tell them how I’m sick, they’re going to think of me differently. It sucks, so much. But I’m not as embarrassed anymore. And one day I hope to help others like me see that they shouldn’t be ashamed of who they are.